Here’s the thing: Not all art schools are created equal.
While most schools have an arts program, there are certain things that set quality schools apart, it’s crucial that students consider those things so they can attain the quality of education they deserve and need in order to nurture their talents, advance them to the next level, and provide opportunities and support after graduation.
A great place to learn about these distinguishing variables is online by reading blogs (look at you getting ahead of us), but there is no replacement for actually visiting a school, seeing the studios and works in progress, and—if possible—meeting some of the faculty.
What could possibly be your biggest advantage, however, will be knowing which questions to ask.
- Is your program accredited?
An accredited school carries a lot of weight and is a mark of quality and high standards on a résumé. Non-accredited schools may not stand behind their degree or have a poor reputation (or no reputation at all). This is especially important if you intend to go into teaching.
- What is your strongest art concentration? What makes this program better than the others?
Certain schools may be very highly regarded in a certain concentration and, if they aren’t well-known for your field of interest, you may want to look elsewhere.
- What are some projects or examples of work students have created?
How this question is answered will give you an idea of the caliber and variety of work that the students of a particular school are producing. Ask yourself, do any of the projects interest you? Could you see them helping you further your skills or career prospects?
- Will I be building a portfolio to help me get a job?
In the creative industry, portfolios are everything. You should constantly be looking for ways to build and improve upon your own personal portfolio no matter what your concentration is. Are the projects you will be working on the type that will help you get a job or showcase your skillset to a potential employer?
- Do you have any internship or co-op opportunities?
Internships not only offer an unparalleled opportunity to learn and grow in a real world business setting, they are also one of the best ways to build a professional network and land a job after graduation. If your school offers internship opportunities, they can be a great advantage regardless of your field or concentration.
- Where do students work when they graduate?
What types of roles and careers do students gain after graduation? Are there companies that like to hire students from (insert school here)? Often the reputation of a school can make all the difference, but it’s also generally good to know what type of job you might be progressing toward and the companies who might hire students like you.
- What percentages of students have jobs within 6 months of graduation?
Compare the numbers between a few of your top choices. A higher percentage may mean the school is more helpful in placing students or has a better career services center. It might also mean that their reputation may be viewed more positively than others in the industry.
- How much studio time will I have?
The studio is the place where all the magic happens and it becomes a home away from home for art students. Check out studio hours (will you have studio access when that inexplicable 2 a.m. inspiration strikes?) and whether or not studio time will be limited to just classes and assigned times.
- Do you host/sponsor any shows or exhibitions where I can share my work?
Not only will the answers to this question show that a school is dedicated to promoting their arts program, but exhibitions can be a major source of real world experience for budding artists and help get them noticed by industry professionals and publications.
- Do you offer scholarships?
Scholarships aren’t just for athletes and science majors. Schools offer a variety of scholarships you may be eligible for and it never hurts to ask! For example, IPFW’s CVPA has scholarships specifically for art students.
- How are your alumni relations? Are there notable ones/are they active in the community?
A strong alumni program is a great way to get help with networking and, ultimately, get a job. In turn, a strong network shows that students take pride in their education and helps strengthen the school brand and their reputation.
- Why should I go here (over another school)?
Don’t be afraid to put a little pressure on the school; this question will help you get a straight answer. Remember that not everyone you speak to will be totally familiar with the program—but, if school administrators and department faculty can’t give a clear and honest answer, then chances are that they consider their program an afterthought. Look for answers that signal a sense of pride and academic support for the programs.
IPFW’s College of Visual and Performing Arts is a great, affordable option for local students, with dedicated faculty, scholarships for fine arts and visual communication and design students, internships for BFA students, travel abroad, research, and more. After all, now you’ve got questions and we most certainly have answers.